CNN/Money recently ran an article about piggybacking on your neighbor’s wireless internet service rather than paying for your own, and they have since published a followup detailing reader reactions. While two-thirds of their poll respondents considered such network “sharing” to be stealing, the majority of those that actually took the time to write in were of the “if it’s in my house, then I’m free to use it” mindset.
So where do you stand? If your neighbor’s WiFi signal extended into your space, and it wasn’t secured in any way, would you make use of it? If you have a wireless network of your own, how would you feel about others using it? And have you taken any steps to stop them?
In my opinion, network owners are responsible for securing their connections, and I wouldn’t really have an ethical problem with using someone else’s network if they broadcast an unsecured signal it into my house. That being said, I wouldn’t be comfortable depending on someone else connection for my internet access. This is purely a pragmatic issue, as I wouldn’t want to deal with the possible unreliability of someone else’s wireless network. After all, they could pull the plug at any time. And there’s also the issue of data security — there’s no telling what someone might be doing with your data as it passes through their network.
As far as someone accessing my network goes, I’d be pissed. I’m actually posting this message over my wireless network, and it’s as secure as I can make it… It’s password protected, the signal is encrypted, and I also have MAC authentication turned on, such that only ‘approved’ computers are allowed to connect. While none of these measures are foolproof, they should keep out all but the most determined riff-raff. And if someone did manage to get through, I’d definitely consider them to be intruders. The one security measure that my router doesn’t offer, but which I’d really like, is the ability to stop it from broadcasting its SSID. This basically equates to stopping it from shouting out its name as loud as it can, such that the network is more or less invisible to those that don’t already know that it’s there.
Of course, if you want free wireless access and you don’t want to risk stepping on your neighbor’s toes, then you could always seek out free WiFi networks in your area. Or you could be to approach your neighbor about sharing both their connection and the cost. While this sort of sharing is almost certainly against the ISP’s rules, there virtually no way they can enforce it, and it could save both you and your neighbor a decent chunk of change.